Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Regional Issue Sets = Crack For A Team Collector

Being a card collector means regularly shelling out your hard earned cash for a little 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 pulp and paper representation of your favorite player. Sometimes you carry the quest a little further and try to collect every card in a set. There is even a faction of the hobby that honours their favorite team by building a set that contains each card issued for each player on said team.

Usually this is enough to satisfy the collector.

Obsessive collectors try to find releases of their favorite players or teams that exist beyond the realm of the contemporary release. With a little bit of research and a constant ear to the ground you can find many regional and special releases of cards whose pursuit can keep you busy well into the fall and winter seasons.

In the early 1980's and throughout the 1990's the Toronto Blue Jays grew in popularity, not only across Canada but specifically in their home province of Ontario. The Blue Jays received their fair share of regional releases during this time. None of those releases were more popular than the ones issued in conjunction with the Ontario Fire Chiefs Association or the Public Fire Safety Council. Sadly these sets disappeared in the late 1990's.

Well, guess what?!?!?!


That's right!! Toronto Blue Jays Fire Safety sets are alive and well in 2011 and, with special thanks to my lovely wife, they are a part of my continuing collection. She sent a text to me today that she had stopped by the local Fire Prevention offices here in Brantford and picked it up for me. There are several hundred Firehouses across Ontario that are participating in the 'Swing into Summer Safety' education program who are making these sets available. I could not wait to get home and have a look at something that has been missing from my collection for over a decade.

The set size is as you would expect, individual cards for each player on the 25-man roster. What makes this set extra special is that all seven coaches have a card as well. Even the team mascot makes an appearance. This is a fun set meant to deliver just that, fun. The card design is simple and easy. All the colours match the team colours and the facsimile autograph on the front gives this set a classy enough look to display nicely paged in a binder.

The backs of the cards prominently feature a Fire Safety tip given a baseball themed twist at the top of the card. A head shot of the player photo from the front of the card along with the regular bio information and a single line of stats encompassing the entire career stats of each player is in the middle of the card back. Finally, a snippet of info regarding one of the career highlights of each player rounds out the card back.

Here is the back of the Ricky Romero card.

Enough writing on my part. Scroll down past this and enjoy the set in all its scanned glory. No gimmicks, no parallels, no bloat, just Blue Jays. EPIC FTW!!!

Thanks again to my awesome, lovely wife for getting it into my hands. It may not be a Topps Baseball Sticker Album and a handful of stickers, but in this case it is the best next thing!! I like the addition of the Dough Dude rookie card, makes me laugh.

As I was writing this post I thought it would not be complete without a specific embedded video.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

My 2011 National Experience - A $1 Well Spent

One of the more enticing and exciting aspects of The National I was looking forward to was the fabled "Quarter Boxes" that I have long heard about but have never had the joy of experiencing first hand. I have seen the videos and heard the stories of numerous wonders discovered in these beasts. As a matter of fact, I even saw with my own two eyes one of the wonders of the 2011 National Quarter Box hunt that was claimed by Chris Harris over at Stale Gum.

Sadly, for this NSCC Rookie, there was simply far too much to see and do at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center that I never truly had the time to troll these deposits of wondrous discovery with the proper focus and respect they deserve. I did get to spend around 40 minutes on Sunday morning at the table of one dealer. I came away with out $20 worth of singles and inserts that will complete some sets and spark the quest for completion of others.

Out of the total money spent I have decided to show off what I feel to be the best $1.00 I spent on my maiden voyage into the abyss that is "The Quarter Box".

The first card goes toward my completion of my 1979 Topps Toronto Blue Jays Team set. Garth Iorg is hardly the feature of this card but it IS one of those great Topps-isms that place a player you need on a card with a player that "makes" the card. By no means is it unattainable on the regular market but when you can take home a Rookie Card of perhaps one of the most consistent players ever and one half of arguably the best infield combination ever for a quarter, you do it.

Being a Canadian this next card made absolute sense when I first saw it. When I saw it again I thought; "Why Not?". When I saw it for a third time I new it was meant to be. That is right, I brought home not one.....

.....NOT TWO.....

.....BUT THREE!!!!!

Yes, three copies of Tim Raines' 1981 Topps Rookie Card. If you have to ask then I will never be able to explain it to you.

My plan for 2012 in Baltimore is already taking shape and I plan to venture back to these Quarter Boxes for sure. This time, I will be better prepared and have much greater respect for these behemoths of the hobby.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

My 2011 National Experience - TRISTAR/TNA

Like most of the fellow bloggers we all follow, this past week for me has been spent sorting through and recording the spoils from the recently completed National Sports Collectors Convention (#NSCC). Aside from having the opportunity to personally meet and greet a significant number of individuals I converse with daily on Twitter and taking in a Cubs game, the event I was most looking forward to was the TRISTAR/TNA Meet & Greet.

For the price of a single box of TRISTAR ‘TNA Signature Impact Wrestling’ cards you could purchase 1 of 400 packages that included an autograph ticket and photo opportunity ticket for each of the four TNA Impact wrestlers in attendance for The National, Mr. Anderson, Kurt Angle, Tara and the 16-time World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair. For a life-long wrestling fan this opportunity was a no-brainer and as it turns out I was hardly the only one who this thought occurred to.

The entire focus of my Saturday was to make sure that I spent as much time as necessary soaking in the presence and company of these four entertainers/athletes/warriors/superstars/wrestlers. Whatever you choose to call them this was my opportunity to personally thank them for what they do to themselves strictly for my enjoyment and entertainment.

Saturday began with a surprise, of sorts, in that Blowoutcards was offering an unannounced special price on the ‘TNA Signature Impact Wrestling’ boxes. For about 25% off the initial offering price of the package I (impulsively??) decided to pick up another box and thus another autograph/photo package.

As an added “bonus” to this package, upon redemption at the TRISTAR booth you received an additional autograph card from another TNA/Impact wrestler along with a collection of TRISTAR Obak 2011 National exclusive cards. Seeing as I bought two packages I received two bonus autographs. Mine were featured a Magnus autograph from the 2010 ‘TNA Icons’ release and a Jacqueline from the 2009 ‘TNA Knockouts’ release.

Along with a couple of the regular 2011 Obak cards TRISTAR was giving away at The National this year there were Obak cards exclusive to this package. Numbered TNA-1, TNA-2 and TNA-3 the cards pictured Kurt Angle, Mr. Anderson and Tara. Surprisingly these made for opportune autograph material, amazing how that happened. On a personal note here, if anyone who purchased the package managed to pull a TNA-4 card featuring Ric Flair please let me know. I have no idea if they even exist but it would make sense to me.

Each box of ‘TNA Signature Impact Wrestling’ cards provides “7 guaranteed hits” along with “1 multi-autographed card guaranteed in every box”. One of the guaranteed hits is a relic card with the possibility of a multi-swatch card. Add to the mix there are 3 different boxes to choose from, featuring Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan or Sting also containing exclusive content and you start to understand the enjoyment loaded into this product. Depending on the box you pick you will get 1 of 9 short printed/limited edition cards featuring the subject depicted on your chosen box. I had one Sting and 1 Ric Flair box.

Of the 6 autographs I pulled out of the two boxes, 5 made their way home with me. I traded one away for a companion piece to an oversized event worn relic card I pulled. All autos are numbered to 99, 25, 5 or 1 and all things considered I was quite happy with the autographs I hit. I managed a gold parallel dual auto numbered out of 25 featuring Gunner and Murphy. It does not really show on the scan of the card but the foil on the card is gold coloured. The auto I was happiest to get was from Samoa Joe, who is rumoured to be on his way to the WWE once his contract with TNA/Impact expires. The weakest auto com from the no longer employed Orlando Jordan.

The 6th autograph I pulled was of TNA Knockout Christy Hemme which quickly found its way into the collection of Rob Bertrand (@VOTC) from Cardboard Connection Radio. (@CardboardRadio) Rob in turn gave me an excellent companion piece to the oversized relic I pulled of Rob Van Dam. An added yet spectacular bonus to the relic cards is that the swatch comes from a t-shirt that the wrestler is ACTUALLY WEARING ON THE CARD PHOTO, Imagine that?!?!

Thanks Rob.

With boxes ripped the time came for the payoff to this awesome package. Originally scheduled to begin at noon, it was announced that the autograph signings and photo opportunities would be bumped up an hour to 11:00am. While not a big deal for those already at the show I am sure this threw a bit of a wrench into the plans of those who were planning on showing at the scheduled time. First up was the photo op with one half of the current TNA Knockout Tag-team Champions, Tara. Perhaps more widely recognized for her Victoria persona in WWE, Tara was one of the reasons why I jumped at this package. In my estimation she possesses one of the best finishing moves in wrestling today and I have been a fan of her for quite some time.

Having purchased two packages I took full advantage of two photo opportunities. One cool surprise was that Tara brought her Tag Title Championship belt along for the photo shoot, a nice added touch IMHO. I was especially happy when she suggested the second photo be staged the way it was, I think it turned out great. Tara even thanked me for “selling it”.

The next two photos were with Mr. Anderson and Kurt Angle. Both are incredibly gracious guys and I have come to enjoy their work more since they moved from WWE to TNA/Impact. Anderson has a great twist on the classic “heel-as-a-face” storyline going, especially with his collection of fans known as ‘Anderson’s Assholes’. What Kurt has put himself through to solidify his persona is short of legendary. I had the opportunity to tell him so and thank him for some of the more incredible “spots” I have ever witnessed, including a moonsault from the top of a steel cage.

I had 2 extra photo opportunity tickets, one for Anderson and one for Angle, and with Marie from ‘A Cardboard Problem’ nowhere in sight (I KNOW you would have wanted the Angle opportunity), I decided to give them away to a couple of younger fans who were just hanging around watching the fuss. I hope they enjoyed having their photo taken alongside one of their favorite wrestlers as much as I did.

Finally, the BIG moment came and it was time to “walk that aisle” with the 16-time “Limousine ridin’, jet flying, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ and dealin’ son-of-a-gun…..WOOOOO!!”, Ric Flair. For me, this opportunity stands as a once in a lifetime chance and I still found myself “marking out” when my turn came. When I was a scrawny 110lb, 4-foot-6, 14-year-old, Ric Flair and Roddy Piper taught me how to walk and talk like I was 10-feet tall. Having the opportunity to tell Flair that was a true “moment” for me. The chance to shake the hand of an Icon in the wrestling business was a real honour. To be able to flash one of the most iconic symbols in Professional Wrestling alongside the man who made it famous was totally surreal.

Saturday was indeed the day that I looked forward to the most out of the entire 5 days of The National. I have the photographic reminders of a great time had which I will always cherish. However, this was only the half of it. In the next post I will cover the autograph portion of my day along with some of the rather questionable decisions made by TRISTAR in hosting an event like this. As usual, a 100% satisfaction rate was impossible to attain.

Until then,